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Career change from engineering to accountancy

Hi all,

I've been trying to undergo a career change from engineering to accountancy for about 13 months now.

I've got a 2:2 in Mechanical Engineering (Nottingham University) and an MSc in Engineering (55%) from Southampton University.

The problem I've got is that if I apply to a big firm then they want a 2:1 (regardless of university or course which I find incredible) and if I go to a smaller firm they are concerned that I'm over qualified (i.e. 4 years engineering degree from top tier engineering universities), I've also just turned 27 which probabaly also makes them think I'll be looking to move on quickly.

I've been doing temp work for 13 months solid (purchase ledger, finance assistant and currently accounts assistant). Not that money is everything but £10/hr isn't exactly great and I've self-funded/self-studied my way through 7 ACCA exam passes in the last 12 months (I think the pace that I've gone through the ACCA exams may be making people think that I'm too ambitious).

Anyway that's it really, I was just wondering if anyone could shed some light on the best route ahead - my preference is to go through industry rather than practice but would be happy to stick out practice for a couple of years until I'm qualified (I'm not so keen on client-facing work). (I'm finding that in industry the large firms want a 2:1 and the small firms want six-form leavers who work there way slowly through AAT, with nothing inbetween).

Also, I ran a successful business at uni but I've taken this off the CV because I still run the business (now takes up <15 minutes per week) - it causes me to crash at interview because they worry that I'm understating the time it takes up, they also worry that I am too entrepreneurial (didn't know that was a bad thing!) - so for my degree my CV just shows a rather average degree grade with no mitigating explanation.

A levels were A in Economics, B in Maths, B in Physics.

Any ideas would be gratefully received!

Many thanks,



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06th Sep 2010 21:22

It's a long road.....

.........but don't give up.

I was in a similar position but I changed from banking to accountancy, not a world apart but it took a while.  I studied my degree in accounting and finance part-time while working in the bank full-time.  Completed the course in 4 years with a 2:2, I didn't think this was bad.  But the application process for graduate schemes, big four, etc didn't take into consideration that I was able to work full-time and complete a degree part-time.  The other problem was applying for positions with a lower salary.

I eventually found a position with an SME, started as accounts assistant and ended up as Finance Manager (company had no FD).  The all round experience I gained in the SME environment been invaluable.   You need to find an employer who can look beyond the general HR recruiting process that most companies employ.  Plus entreprenuerial SME's will see your business acumen as a good trait so don't hide it.

 If I was doing it again I would target the employer rather than wait for positions to be advertised, maybe use your previous career to your advange.  There must be engineering firms wanting finance people who can show a detailed understanding of engineering.

Best of luck,



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06th Sep 2010 21:59

Many thanks Richard, great advice - I'll start contacting some companies from my old industry tomorrow.

Congratulations on your success.

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07th Sep 2010 10:56

Engineering AND Finance

If there are any left in the UK I would have thought that engineering companies would be taking your hand off!

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07th Sep 2010 12:15

Shortage of engineers?

Only yesterday I was listening to something on the radio about there being a national shortage of engineers. Right now they are going to crack down on immigration abuse and also reduce the number of new student and professional visas. I would therefore think that it would make sense to stick with engineering.

However, you can't beat practice as a good way to start, and maybe try and get some better people skills too? Write in to your local firms and go from there. Most will not want to pay agency fees if they can avoid it.

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By pennylj
08th Sep 2010 12:01


Your post combines confidence and impatience which I sympathise with, but think it may be putting ppl off! 

For example, exam passes are not always viewed as a reliable indicator that you'll be any good at the job.  Without wishing to become embroiled in the quallified vs unqualified debate, I've come across a number of ppl with the qualifications who simply cannot do the job, and others without them who are quite brilliant accountants and business advisors.

Accountants do need good communication skills because we all have clients, albeit some of them are internal.  So, even if the aim is to work within the technical realm of the profession or in industry, you'll need your communications skills so as to explain complex information in a digestible manner to ppl who do not have your knowledge, skills and experience.  I would not be keen to take on a colleague who preferred not to be client facing - IMO wherever we work, we need to be able to manage relationships effectively.

Finally, I'd be inclined to return your successful business to your CV, since it goes some way to explaining your lower degree grade and is a talking point.  The right firm will appreciate it.  Good luck in your hunt, 

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08th Sep 2010 12:08

Was it worth it? Probably.

I moved from Engineering to Accountancy twenty years ago. Although not a qualified Engineer I had ten years experience in the civil and manufacturing environment before changing course. During that time I also "collected" a wife, four children and mortgage, so the decision raised a few eyebrows at the time. 

I was fortunate enough to be offer a place on an Accountancy degree at University, and then a job in industry where I qualified with CIMA. At the end of my degree I found the professional firms reluctant to take on anyone "out of the ordinary". The response was that I wasn't going to achieve Partner status so, I would be better looking for that job in industry now, rather than in three or four years time. After all, I was 34 years old. 

While the degree enabled me to obtain that first job I have found employers equally reluctant to recruit anyone that's inconsistent with their expectations. That has remained the case for twenty years and has lead to a significant degree of career frustration. 

I would encourage you to follow your chosen path, but don't expect any favours for doing so. 

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08th Sep 2010 12:28

Consultancy fims

Have you tried the likes of IBM or any other large consultance type firm. Quite a few that I've worked with seemed to come from an engineering background. The top firms will be a bit stuffy about degree levels, etc. Their loss I think.

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08th Sep 2010 15:02

Why pay £35 when you can pay £10

 The big problem for qualified accountants these days is many employers find that if they get a school or non-accounting university student they can be trained to go through the motions of basic accounting work. This is different to engineering, I guess, where it is not possible to learn the process on the job. You have found this yourself in achieving an accounting position without having completed any accounting qualifications.


Perhaps it is a problem of an oversupply of qualified accountants or a failure to demonstrate the value of hiring a £35 per hour qualified person over a $10 per hour unqualified person.


Anyway my accounting qualifications haven’t really served me well. Three years for accounting degree, three years for CA accounting qualification, then a masters degree in business. However I’ve been job seeking for almost 18 months.



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08th Sep 2010 20:24

I was a physics teacher

I was a Physics teacher (with a 2:2 from Durham, plus good A-levels in Maths, Physics & Chem) for 5 years before moving to accountancy. It took me 6 months of interviews before I got a job. I think I was 28 when I got the job, and 29 when I started. That was 4 & 1/2 years ago (I am now a qualified ACA manager at another small firm, but its easy to move from practice to industry on qualification: this is not true the other way around). I got a job intially with a 4 partner accountancy firm. Yes, most want a 2:1, but not all of them. If you fancy a job in practice (like what I did) try the icaew. 5 years ago they had a list on their website of all firms looking for trainees. Many of these only ask for a 2:2 (or at least did 5 years ago).


I would say: what they are looking for is: someone bright ( you must be with your a-levels). But also, someone who will do what they are told and learn fast. Older people find the second bit harder, so if you can demonstrate a williness to learn and change you'll be able to over come that barrier. You can emphasise your "professional" experience. Graduates straight out from uni don't know what its like to work in an office (or perhaps work at all). This is your major plus.


Good luck,



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08th Sep 2010 20:29

Phyics Teacher continued.

the big difficulty now is that business is still tough for accountancy firms: most businesses that go bust do so at the end of a recession, or just after it. Therefore, accountancy firms are still losing clients: hence don't want to employ new staff. When I got my job back in 2006, there was a relative boom and gap in numbers of applicants.

Our small firm lost 2 members of chargeable staff at the beginning of the recession, and we've only hired one more since then.

therefore, you may have to wait longer than I did to find that first accountancy job.

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08th Sep 2010 23:16

Stick to industry

Industry seems a better option for you. Practices just aren't recruiting much and even though you have the ability to make it, you're not likely to get the opportunity. If you don't like dealing with clients, I'm not sure why you'd even want a job in practice.

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09th Sep 2010 13:18

Don't do it...

You don't explain why you want to make this change so I'll assume you're doing it because you think you'll earn more as an Accountant than as an Engineer...

Things for you to think about:

1) I ran a successful business...but have taken it off my CV to please the "boring corporate shortsighted numpties who you want to work with..." hmmm... doesn't that tell you something?

2) I think you'll find the majority of the better paid accountancy jobs want "client facing" type people skills... whether within practice or out of it...

3) Your access to the better jobs will be hampered later by not having "Big 4" on your CV and as you've already mentioned no 2:1

4) I don't really see a future for accountants as technology takes over the actual need for bean counters will go - I think it already is going - I used to earn what you are earning as a PQ and that is over 20 years ago...

Anyway, I could be wrong here but it sounds to me like you are trying to qualify your way into a better paying job. That's exactly what I did! I'm an ACCA with an MSc IT... who doesn't naturally fit in today's corporate accounting world...

What you really need to do is ask yourself what you want to be doing each day for the rest of your life.

My advice would be to build a business if you can... much more varied, interesting and challenging... which is what I'm thinking about doing now - I just need some cash - hmmm... where can I earn £50k ?


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27th Oct 2010 17:18

Engineering grad (should I go down engineering route or accounta

Hi all,

This post is exactly what I've been wondering myself. I got a first from Glasgow Uni (masters mechanical engineering) this summer and am unsure if I should go down the engineering route or accountancy route. I have been told engineers are undervalued, the work is harder/more challenging and you don't get paid as much as accountants, oh and I'd be going into the Oil&Gas Industry after extensive internships over the course of my studies so I'd be travelling internationally all the time and have no life. 

Can anyone give me advice on the the matter, I have all the skills to enter both industries such as client facing, communication and analytical skills, so its really just a case of choosing but I can't seem to make the choice :(.

Oh and sorry for stealing this thread I would add my comments on the matter but I don't have any experience. What I would say is that the big companies get so many applicants that it really is just a way of reducing the numbers by asking for 2.1 and above. Too entrepreneurial and excuses like that are really just rubbish as all companies look for people able to think creatively, maybe just tone it down a little in interviews and definately include setting your own business up on your CV, maybe just say that you aren't working on it just now. 

Cheers and any advice would be much appreciated.



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